There's too much information and too little time for a proper review of the proposed Bipole III transmission-line project, critics argued Thursday at a Clean Environment Commission pre-hearing.
That's why the commission should put the brakes on its Oct. 1 starting date for the mandatory environmental hearing into the $3.3-billion project, said the Bipole III Coalition and the Manitoba branch of the Consumers' Association of Canada. They want an adjournment of at least two months.
The Bipole III project has been a front-burner political issue for six years and one that doesn't appear to be lessening as Manitoba Hydro pushes on with building the new 695-megawatt Keeyask dam on the Nelson River, despite slower sales of surplus power to the United States and the growing supply of cheaper shale gas south of the border.
The coalition and the consumers' association also argued the arm's-length commission also has to look at what less-costly alternatives there are to Manitoba Hydro building a third, 1,400-kilometre, high-voltage direct-current transmission line down the west side of the province.
Coalition lawyer Ivan Holloway said a large amount of technical material has already been submitted for review -- approaching 10,000 pages and counting -- and more time is needed for the coalition's consultants to sift through it.
"It's absolutely impossible," he said. "You can't read it on the bus ride home."
Consumers' association lawyer Byron Williams said the CEC should delay the hearing for 120 days because Hydro is still submitting information for its environmental impact statement.
Hydro lawyer Doug Bedford said the time frame for the CEC's hearing into Bipole III is similar to the one for Hydro's Wuskwatim dam project, a 200-megawatt generation station near Thompson that's currently coming on stream, and there should be no postponement.
"The pace, I acknowledge, is intense," Beford said. "It is not leisurely. (But) if I can do it, I suggest anyone in this room can do it."
CEC chairman Terry Sargeant said the panel should release its decision on the motions from the coalition and consumers' association as early as next week.